As a specialist bank focused on supporting UK SMEs, we recognise that this is a challenging time for our customers.
The depreciation in the value of sterling means goods and services are costing us more. In addition, as we negotiate our exit from the European Union, businesses face a prolonged period of political and economic uncertainty, which can impact on investment decisions and can make it harder for companies to plan for the future.
We believe it is important for us to understand the issues that are impacting our customers so we are more able to support them in their efforts to thrive and grow and it is with this in mind that we commissioned our annual business savings survey. The findings provide food for thought and reflect the challenging business environment in which we are currently operating.
Last year, in the run up to the EU referendum, our survey showed that SMEs were building up business savings and current account balances. In 2017, the story is very different.
While we as a bank are continuing to see growth in our deposits and lending divisions, the uncertain economic and political environment is clearly impacting on British businesses.
Indeed, according to this year’s research, UK SMEs are saving 20% less than they were a year ago, with concern about the long-term economic outlook cited as the main reason why they intended to decrease savings balances in the coming year. In addition, current account balances have fallen by 3% over the same time period.
On a regional level, our research shows that while SMEs based in the East of England are saving the most money, they are putting less away than they were last year. In fact, only SMEs in the East Midlands have grown their savings balances since 2016.
It is a similar story at a sector level. According to our survey, SMEs in the IT and communications sector are top of the table when it comes to saving. However, IT and communications is the only sector to have grown savings balances since last year.
While this may sound like cause for concern, the positive news is that smaller businesses are still investing more than half of total funds in savings and are identifying opportunities for growth, with a third (34%) saying they are building up cash reserves to fund a major purchase, compared to 17% last year.
Our experience shows that UK SMEs are resilient and that we will continue to see innovation in the sector despite political and economic difficulties.
We believe that during tough times like this it is important for businesses to remain focused on making the most of their hard-earned cash. Rather than stockpiling cash in current accounts, SMEs should consider shopping around for a savings account that provides a better rate of return, enabling them to make more of their money and drive future growth.
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